Diet can influence stereotypic behaviors in horses

Continuous foraging helps control stereotypic behaviors.
Continuous foraging helps control stereotypic behaviors.

Cribbing, weaving and other stereoptypic behaviors can be reduced through diet and stable management.

Recently I wrote about cribbing and how to help prevent it. Conventional wisdom has always been that frequent grazing and turnout can reduce cribbing behavior. Now a study conducted at the University of Bristol confirms that horses whose lifestyle approximates the natural grazing conditions of wild horses (nearly continuous eating of less nutrient-rich food) generally displayed quieter behavior and fewer steroptypic behaviors such as cribbing and weaving compared to horses fed infrequent, large and/or high starch meals. Researchers theorize that the more traditional diet may reduce digestive problems or blood sugar fluctuations.

This confirms it for me:  my horse will continue to get as much grass hay as he wants and enjoy his 24/7 turnout! It hasn’t completely stopped his cribbing and weaving but now I know my perception that diet and turnout has helped control his stereotypic behaviors is more than just my imagination.

Read more details about the study at The Horse, Link Between Equine Diet and Behavior Explored.

4 thoughts on “Diet can influence stereotypic behaviors in horses

  1. literaryhorse

    I know a few people (even those who really should know better) who keep their obsessive, skinny cribbers in the stall for 10-12 hours a day because, according to them, it’s a nicer place to be.

    When I’ve tried the argument of paralleling horses to dogs, saying that dogs who are crated all day long are likely to chew and whine and do destructive stuff, and need to run and play, so horses might benefit form some natural activity, they look at me like I have three heads.

    Is there such a thing as a common sense deficit? CSDD (Common Sense Deficit Disorder!)

  2. Glad that worked so quickly for you!

    I’ve only stalled my horse for long periods of time due to lameness or, one spring I did keep him up half the day to prevent laminitis (he got lots of grass hay, though). Fortunately no bad habits formed.

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